DEMAREST HOUSE MUSEUM (J. Paulison Homestead)
by Kevin W. Wright
The Demarest House Museum was restored in 2009 through a generous grant
from the Blauvelt-Demarest Foundation. The foundation followed with restoration of the
Westervelt-Thomas Barn in 2014. Jim Bellis, Jr and Jim Bellis, Sr, pictured,
have been long-time supporters of Historic New Bridge Landing.
Demarest House Museum in present day location, River Edge
Jim Bellis, Jr and Jim Bellis, Sr,
Because of its proximity to the French Burying Ground and to the site of an old gristmill on the river, some twentieth-century observers mistook this simple two-room stone dwelling for the original habitation of David Demarest, Senior, erected in 1678. The Huguenot pioneer, however, actually resided at Old Bridge, near to the original family gristmill. We know little about the earliest dwellings built by pioneer settlers- none having survived - except to say that they wereprobably built of heavy frame construction. While field stones were probably used in foundations, such a labor-intensive material as dressed stone was seldom used in frontier dwellings of the seventeenth century and the Demarests' saw mill, built before 1683, certainly suggests that timber would have been the most convenient and familiar material for construction purposes.
When it was realized that the tract whereon the old cemetery and adjacent stone dwelling were situated originally belonged to David's son Samuel, construction of the little stone house was mistakenly attributed to him. Consequently, its history was confused with that of another vanished old dwelling - the homestead of Simon Samuelse Demarest - which formerly stood on the west side of River Road (near about the present site of the New Milford Borough Hall), but which was razed about 1922. In any event, the Paulison Homestead, relocated to River Edge in 1956 and known as "the Demarest House," is the best surviving example of a Bergen Dutch sandstone cottage with two rooms and two entry doors with a stoop shaded by the spring-eaves extension of the roof; this type of "starter home" was most popular between 1790 and 1820.
This type of "starter home" was most popular between 1790 and 1820.
The Demarest House in its original location on Patrolman Ray Woods Dr, New Milford, NJ.
Looking west, River Edge is in the background.
The Old French Burying Ground is situated upon Lot #3 in the French Patent, encompassing 200 acres, surveyed for Samuel Demarest on January 13, 1695. By his last will and testament, probated October 19, 1728, Samuel Demarest, Senior, of Hackinsack, yeoman, devised this tract to his son Simon. Simon may have erected the now vanished house on the west side of River Road about the time of his marriage to Vroutie Herring in December 1722. Interestingly, the oldest recorded burial in the Old French Burying Ground dates to 1721, suggesting settlement at about this date. The cemetery was rarely used again until the Revolution, when circumstances perhaps made it difficult or impossible for neighbors to conduct burials in the nearest church yards.
By his last will and testament, probated April 8, 1761, Simon bequeathed the "land where my improvements are, on which I live" to his youngest son, Jacob. Jacob S. Demarest married Elizabeth Steenbrander at Schraalenburgh on August 27, 1768 and they had three children, all baptized at Schraalenburgh Church, namely: Vroutje, born July 31, 1769; David, born July 2, 1771; and Symon, born January 29, 1773. The family apparently removed to New York City either during or after the Revolution. Jacob possibly died there in November 1787 - in any event, they disappear from local records.
On the Erskine-Watkins Map #113 (ca. 1778), an old Demarest house on the west side of River Road was marked "Elias Romeyn." Born in Dutchess County, Captain Romeyn removed to this neighborhood after the British captured New York City and his militia company guarded New Bridge, Brower's Hill and Liberty Pole throughout the war. He and his men were attacked at Liberty Pole on September 22, 1778, by a regiment of British dragoons. In 1782, Captain Romeyn was court-martialed and convicted of robbing the inhabitants of the neighborhood and of accepting bribes to overlook illicit traders along the Hackensack River who shipped goods to British-held Manhattan. He then departed the area.
Jacobus Paulison, a son of Paulus M. Paulison and Rachel Demarest, purchased 100 acres of the estate of Jacob S. Demarest in 1791 and then erected a gristmill upon the Hackensack River. He had this two-room stone cottage built for his son John J. Paulison on the Mill Lane shortly after his marriage to Altie Ely, daughter of William Ely and Maria Demarest, on April 4, 1794. John Paulison took over management of his father's gristmill in that same year.
When Jacobus died in November 1808, he left instructions to divide his farm between his two sons: Paulus received that portion to the north and the east of the division line, including the old Demarest homestead and barn on the west side of River Road; John received the land to the south and west, bounded east on the Franse Valletje and west on the Hackensack River, "together with the Mill house, New Barn, [and] dwelling house..." where he resided. In August 1821, Paulus Paulison agreed to allow William Ely, Andrew Zabriskie and others who had friends and relatives in the French Burying Ground near his house to enclose the old cemetery with a fence. This agreement mentions the "lane leading from the public road [River Road] to John Paulison's house."
John Paulison died December 19, 1852, aged 79 years. His first wife had died in 1802, where upon he married Abigail Van Norden who survived him by three years, dying in March 1855 at 84 years of age. According to an inventory made in January 1853, the Paulisons used one of the two rooms of the stone house as a "Bedroom," outfitted with a bed, bedding and cupboard; chairs, tables and sundry items were dispersed throughout the two rooms. Dry goods were stored in the garret; perishables were kept cool in either the east or west cellar. A small frame Kitchen was formerly appended to the west gable end of the house, a doorway beside the fireplace providing entrance to this wing. The curious shingled opening at the rear of the stone house accommodated a "hovel" or frame shed, perhaps used much like a "mud room" to store tools and fishing net.
In June 1853, Albert Van Voorhis, John Paulison's son-in-law and executor, sold the old homestead farm, comprising 89.16 acres, to Abraham Collard. In October 1855, Collard sold 35.59 acres of the farm (including the old stone house) lying on the west side of River Road to Christian Sackman of Hudson County, but reserved the use of the Old Grist Mill until May 1, 1856. The 1860 Census for Hackensack Township lists Christian Sackman, 44 years old, a farmer, born in Germany. His wife Christina, 48 years old, was also German born. Their children, residing at home, were: George, 19 years old, born in New York, listed as an "Agent"; Caroline, 15 years old, also born in New York; and Margaret 11 years old, born in New York. Their neighbor, apparently residing in the older house near River Road, was James Paulison, 59 years old, a farmer; his wife Ellen, 53 years old; and son Paul, 23 years old, also listed as an agent.
Sackman sold the same premises to Carl George Frederick Heine, of New York City, in February 1863. He was the popular proprietor of the New Bridge Hotel and undoubtedly purchased this farm to supply his hotel with produce. The 1870 Census indicates his residence in the hotel and not in the small stone house to the north. It lists: C. G. Frederick Heine, 53 years old, Hotel Farer, born in Brunswick, Germany; wife Louisa, 50 years old, born in the same place; son Frederick, 16 years old, a farm laborer, born in New York; and daughter Anna, 15 years old, also born in New York. C. G. F. Heine died on February 6, 1894. Upon the death of his wife Louisa, he devised "the farm I own on the River Road containing 35 Acres" to daughter Emma, wife of Henry Rieman, and "the Hotel at New Bridge where I have resided for many years" to daughter Emma, wife of Henry Schreiber. When Emma Heine Rieman died in October 1921, her estate was divided among her four children: Bertha Louise (Telgheder), Augusta (Pratt), Annie (Bruhns) and Henry Rieman.
For many years, the old stone house near the French Burying Ground was occupied on weekends in summer by a group of city artists known as the Pochard Club. The Demarest Family Association was organized in January 1937 to save the old house. Hiram B. Demarest Blauvelt, president of the Comfort Coal & Lumber Company, purchased the house from Henry B. Pratt and Henry Rieman, executors of Emma H. Rieman's estate, in November 1939. The dwelling was painstakingly disassembled and reconstructed on Main Street, River Edge, directly behind the Steuben House, in 1955/56. It displays a collection of Bergen Dutch furnishings, many associated with the Demarest family. James Bellis, Sr., pictured, continued the family's interest at the museum site.
William Demarest and Hiram B.D. Blauvelt surveying reconstruction of the Demarest House behind the Steuben House which is pictured on the left background.
Suggested research links for the Demarest Families:
Genealogical Society of Bergen County
Early Bergen County Families – contact firstname.lastname@example.org for a specific family
Free newspaper searches back to 1700s